The Future of Bus Transit in Waterloo Region

Light rail has been getting most of the attention lately, but some of the most significant improvements to transit are actually coming in the form of the new Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP), which got final Council approval on June 30. The Region of Waterloo is getting serious about curtailing sprawl by directing planned growth to the urban areas. Regional planners figure that continuing the status quo transportation-wise would result in the need for 25 new Hespeler Roads. However, instead of endless road widening, the Region is pursuing a new focus on transit.

A schematic map by Duncan Clemens illustrating some of the transit
improvements specified in the RTMP. Click through to see a larger image.

The RTMP provides a framework for transit funding improvements for the next 20 years, with steady annual increases in the per-capita level of funding for transit. By 2031 funding for transit operations will have tripled over current levels, and the modal share for transit is expected to triple to 17%. The document includes a guide for planned service increases and improvements, which will be reviewed as each year’s plans are put into action.

Just in the first five years, the RTMP plans for five new iXpress-style limited-stop express routes, on Fischer-Hallman Rd, Erb St – University Ave – Bridge St, Highland Rd – Victoria St, Coronation Blvd, and Hespeler Rd. It also calls for better evening and weekend service and increased frequencies for the iXpress and in general. Among planned local service increases are a new Westmount Rd route, service on Ira Needles Blvd, service to the new Conestoga College campus, and new routes to the townships.

For 2010 Grand River Transit has a budget of $54 million (net of expected fare revenue). The first year’s funding increase will be almost $4 million, which gives you a sense of how serious the Region is about improving transit. The year after will be another $4 million, and so on each year until 2031. Other aspects of an improved transportation system — such as complete streets and better land-use policies — are addressed by the new Regional Official Plan and Transportation Corridor Guidelines. We’ll cover those documents in upcoming posts.

One thought on “The Future of Bus Transit in Waterloo Region”

  1. Now we’re talking! The Region needs to be as committed to funding public transit as they are to holding the line on tax increases. There had better be a plan in place to rationalize staffing and taxation that goes hand in hand with this. Piling money into public transit is a great idea, but the corollary is that funding for roads and traditional ‘subsidization of the car’ will need to be addressed. As for the rapid transit component, get used to the idea that this will only materialize in the form of dedicated bus lane style rapid transit. The billion dollar plan is simply a pipe dream. There is no money for this, and the willingness of senior governments to pay up is clearly not there. So, Region of Waterloo, show us your plan without blowing smoke.

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